There is no end to what you can hang or put on a Christmas tree.
My oldest ornaments are two tiny baubles that I gave to my grandmother for Christmas as a child, more than 50 years ago. She had a small artificial tree with colored lights on her TV (the good old time of huge TV sets ;-)). One of the baubles has lost its hanger a long time ago, but because of the cats they don't go on my tree, anyway.
I also have some Snoopy Christmas baubles left from the set we got for the first Christmas in our own flat. That was more than 30 years ago, so they are vintage as well.
These baubles may be of emotional value, but they are just simple baubles.
What did people put on their trees in the past? Let's look at a few things, and no, the Christmas pickle won't be one of them.
In the old days, Christmas trees were often decorated with edible things, like apples, sugar treats, walnuts painted in gold, but over time other ornaments were added.
Have you ever heard of Dresden cardboard ornaments?
Since the 70s of the 19th century these embossed cardboard ornaments were made in the Dresden region by cottage workers in a variety of shapes, from stars or cars to exotic animals.
The cardboard was dampened, then embossed, covered with metal foil and sometimes painted with gelatine. There were one-sided pieces, but also pieces put together from two embossed parts, some of them shaped to be even three-dimensional.
While you can still get Dresden cardboard today, antique ornaments are very much sought after and not easy to find.
|Steamer from Dresdner Pappe around 1880 (Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin, CC-BY SA 3.0)|
Another material that was used for different ornaments was cotton. The little cotton mushrooms are still popular today and you can even make them yourself, but of course there were also snowmen, Santas, fruit, animals, and more, from pressed or spun cotton, more or less elaborate.
I have also mentioned Leonic wires in a previous post. Leonic wires are thin copper wires, gold or silver plated and twisted into a spiral shape. They were used in different ways, for example in decorative ribbons, but also Christmas ornaments. The name "Leonic" possibly comes from the city of Lyon.
The craft of using Leonic wires in Christmas ornaments has been become less and less popular, but hasn't died out completely yet. Here you can find a German video showing a lady from Bavaria making golden stars at home.
Famous are of course the Gablonz ornaments. In the mid-19th century glassmakers in Jablonec began making hollow glass beads. The industry kept developing new ideas and techinques like lining the glass with silver on the inside which makes colors on the outside shine even more. Small hollow glass beads in different shapes were strung with wire and combined with other glass decorations for the most amazing creations.
On Flickr, I found this picture with pieces from an Austrian Christmas exhibition. Just look at that lobster!
|Picture by Taurabus on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)|
I could keep going and going, but it's so easy to get lost in pictures and texts, and still you have to come to an end eventually.
Let me finish this with a video about a lady who has been collecting Christmas ornaments for more than 40 years and shows them in a Christmas museum in Austria (Weihnachtsmuseum Harrachstal). Even if you don't understand German, I think you will enjoy this little glimpse into her collection.
Dresden at The Ornament
Tinseltown at The Vintage Christmas Company
Antique bohemian beaded Christmas decorations ~ 1870 - 1940. Area of Jablonec nad Nisou / Gablonz at the Gablonz Collection